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Missoula Immunization Requirement Raises Questions

A Montana bill went into effect on October 1 with new requirements for school vaccinations. As of October 17, just over 2,000 students in the Missoula district were still not compliant with them.

Dillon Kato reported in the Missoulian that Missoula County Public Schools officials will announce a deadline by the end of October. Students will be required to get vaccines by that deadline or else be excluded from school.

House Bill 158 is a revision of Montana’s immunization laws. MCPS said that the bill requires all students in kindergarten through 12th grade to have two vaccines for varicella, or chickenpox. Students in 7-12th grades will also be required to get a booster for pertussis, or whooping cough.

The chickenpox vaccine is administered in two doses given a month apart for those over the age of 13. Doses are given three months apart for younger children. A student may be allowed to continue attending school if they have received one dose of the vaccine and are planning to get the other according to MCPS.

The new law still allows religious or medical exemptions as reasons not to be immunized.

Before HB158 passed, Montana was the only state that didn’t require the varicella vaccine. The Montana Department of Health and Human Services reports that Montana is one of five not requiring the pertussis booster for school attendance.

The health division of Missoula County’s official website stated that chickenpox caused about 11,000 hospitalizations and 100 to 150 deaths in the United States each year. That was before vaccination became part of routine childhood immunizations. The two-dose vaccine has led to declines of more than 95 percent in chickenpox-related illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths for those who have received routine vaccinations.

Montana has the highest rate among states for whooping cough outbreaks, and the numbers continue to rise. Susan Olp of the Billings Gazette reported that 450 cases of whooping cough were reported in Montana as of July 31, 2015 as compared to 549 cases for all of 2012.

The fact remains, however, that many parents have become skeptical about the benefits of immunizations for their children and themselves. The Huffington Post gives seven reasons that parents choose not to vaccinate their kids…then explains why most of them aren’t based on facts. Among these reasons are theories that vaccines cause autism, are just a conspiracy or lies told by the government and pharmaceutical companies, or that vaccines are filled with harmful preservatives.

Whatever their reason for not vaccinating their children previously, Missoula parents will soon be forced to comply with the new law or risk having their kids sent home.

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